This week has been a week of commemoration about two events that changed the course of history for our country. 150 years ago President Lincoln took two minutes to build a new vision of unity for the United States. The depth and beauty of his words after the bloodiest of battles have inspired the country ever since, particularly during times of polarization and fragmentation that periodically afflict our political and cultural systems. And 50 years ago, the assassination of JFK raised stunning new questions about America’s strength and security. As we listened to those words of Walter Cronkite at 11 am Pacific Time (I was a ninth grader in California watching on a small black and white TV set up in our school’s auditorium), we cried about the human tragedy as well as about the country’s tragedy (“This just does not happen in a civilized country like the USA”).

In a sense 150 years ag0 our country started to regain the innocence of its founding ideals  and  100 years later we lost a piece of that innocence through shocking tragedy. We are a better country for commemorating both this week and trying to make sense of what it means to be an American.